Researchers wearing PPE
Original Published Date: 
Friday, April 16, 2021

Full article issued by Monash University.

As mass shortages, poorly manufactured and misused personal protective equipment (PPE) continues to plague many countries in their fight against COVID-19, ARC-supported researchers have come up with a simple, cost-effective and industrially-scalable solution to keep health workers and patients safe.

The researchers based at Monash University's BioPRIA, Department of Chemical Engineering and School of Biological Sciences have created medical gowns for health care workers and first responders using paper laminated with a coating of polyethylene – a lightweight thermoplastic.

Paper has never been used to produce medical gowns with viral protection. However, this innovation shows that paper could be the missing element in creating affordable alternative materials for PPE to reduce the spread of COVID-19, enabling a mass rollout of high quality PPE to vulnerable communities across the world.

'The global pandemic, spike in demand, and shortage of traditional PPE materials suitable for viral transmission protection has driven researchers, virologists and biomedical experts to collaborate and explore low cost alternative materials for medical gowns and other PPE,'  Director of the ARC Industry Transformation Hub for Processing Advanced Lignocellulosics, Professor Gil Garnier said.

Working with their industrial partners, the research team engineered virus safe medical gowns with both bleached Kraft paper and newsprint paper as the base material, coated with layers of polyethylene. By testing different formulations for viral protection using a fluorescent DNA virus, they have now identified a combination of paper and polyethylene that has high tensile and seam strength and low water vapour transmission rate, while hindering viral penetration.

Photo credit: 

Professor Gil Garnier, Dr Joanne Tanner, Professor Mark Banaszak Holl, Laila Hossain, Ruth Barajas Ledesma and Maisha Maliha. Credit: Monash University.